MANILA - The government has been spending on 344 reclaimed lands from illegal reclamation activities with zero earnings, with illegal reclaimers reaping financial benefits, according to the latest audit report of the Commission on Audit on the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA).
State auditors noted government expenditures such as travel expenses for monitoring activities on the illegally reclaimed lands which include 292 lands with complete reclamation and with pending applications for titling and 52 lands with cease and desist orders, as well as another 26 detected unauthorized reclamations.
“The illegal reclaimers, however, seem to enjoy all the economic benefits associated with the use and ownership of reclaimed land from the period of reclamation,” the COA report said.
It was stressed that the PRA has not attained the purpose of securing titles for the 292 reclaimed lands despite the lapse of more than 10 years.
Some 183 applications were authorized for endorsement to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for forfeiture or other action for failure to comply with the requirements for special registration.
Auditors said the delayed completion of either legalization process or total forfeiture of illegally reclaimed land failed the policy statement of a 2008 administrative order of the PRA management.
AO 2008-3 states that it is the policy of the government to promote infrastructure development involving reclamation which includes ensuring titles will be properly secured for the advantage of the government.
“The illegal acts committed of reclaiming shorelands without permit from the national government cannot be undone, hence the immediate forfeiture of such property, and subsequent titling thereof in favor of the government appears to be the logical solution which rests with the PRA, DENR and the Office of the President,” the COA report said.
The auditors recommended, among others, actions that would end business operations in illegally reclaimed land and fast-tracking of submission of documents to the DENR for the titling of reclaimed land in favor of the government.
Coordination with the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel was also recommended on the ownership of illegally reclaimed land if necessary.
The PRA management for its part said that they will study the suggestions of the auditors and will coordinate with the OGCC for their legal opinion.
“Also, PRA requested from DENR for the conduct of a joint policy review on the various tenurial instruments and department orders of DENR vis-à-vis rules and regulations on reclamation,” the COA report said.
The report also recommended the recovery of 35,821 square meter shoreland reclaimed by the local government of Mandaue City, Cebu in Barangay Looc and later on sold for a “measly sum” of P1.8 million or P50 per square meter to E.C. Ouano Development and management Corporation in 2015.
A civil case for the annulment of the deed of sale filed by the current city government of Mandaue this year is now pending before the Regional Trial Court of Mandaue City, the report also noted.
“The Audit Team will monitor the action to be taken by management to address the issues raised,” the report said.
A copy of the audit report was received by PRA General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Atty. Janilo Rubiato on June 26, 2019.
The full report on PRA can be downloaded from the COA website.